Rhapsody of the Seas Entertainment & Activities
The hub of the ship -- and its entertainment options -- is the Centrum, which got a full-on makeover in 2012. Its lowest level is Deck 4, where the R Bar serves up classic martinis in a setting that's supposed to be '60s mod decor. The bar and additional comfy seating surround a small dance floor and bandstand. That's where all the action takes place, including art auctions, cooking demos, ballroom dance classes, audience-participation games like ring-tosses and "live horse racing," and late-night themed dance parties. The Centrum space soars up to Deck 8 with a windowed ceiling on the pool deck above, and the upper reaches have been outfitted with stage lighting and rigging for aerial acrobatic performances (think high-flying bungee swings). The performances, some of which are publicized in the daily programs and some of which are serendipitous, vary in quality; if you go to only one, make it the farewell spectacular.
Rhapsody of the Seas Activities
The ship has a few main lounges. The Broadway Melodies Show Lounge is one of the most functional and intelligently designed we've experienced. Sightlines from either the main floor or balcony are excellent. Seating is on fixed banquettes, which guarantees adequate space to enter and exit rows, and space is maximized by eliminating tables in favor of drink holders on armrests. The lounge is done up in rich jade-green marble, with furniture upholstered in matching leather and peach and turquoise brocade. On a one-week cruise, expect several performances by the ship's singers and dancers and a few specialty acts. (On our cruise, it was a Beatles tribute band, a comedian and Bowser from Sha Na Na.)
The clubby yet whimsical Schooner Bar has floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look onto the outdoor promenade one deck below. There, the floor by the bar is actual teak decking, varnished and polished to a rich, glossy mahogany sheen. Several tables feature ersatz bits of masts and rigging sprouting from them like transformed umbrellas. A piano with sing-along seating is there for evening entertainment and trivia game purposes.
The Shall We Dance Lounge, located at the stern, is the ship's secondary performance venue, but it's strangely off-the-beaten-track, as you must walk through the Schooner Bar to get to it. It plays host to art auctions, bingo games, dance lessons and dancing to live bands, karaoke and various presentations, from future cruise sails to shopping talks.
The most recognizable public room on Rhapsody of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge. With the addition of Izumi and the Concierge Lounge in the same space, the area feels less open and more chopped up than before. It's still a lovely spot to watch sailaway from indoors and is the late-night disco venue.
The Casino Royale has slot machines and all the requisite card tables (poker, blackjack, craps, etc.). We found the casino staff unusually friendly and helpful, and have never had so much fun losing money. The casino's astronomical decor (lots of stars and moons and astrological symbols) implies that your luck may be at the mercy of the stars.
The Edelweiss Restaurant is also employed as a venue for daytime activities, including scrapbooking and crafts.
On port days, Royal Caribbean offers a vast array of shore excursions, including active tours like hiking, biking and kayaking on its Alaska cruises. Tours are marked for activity level: mild, moderate or strenuous.
Rhapsody of the Seas Public Rooms
The reception and shore excursion desks can be found on Deck 5 in the Centrum. Right above on Deck 6 is the photo gallery, where you can view and purchase pictures taken by the ship's photographers. Thumbs up to the machines that show you all photos of you when you insert your cruise card; thumbs down to the costumed crewmembers hounding you every day to take photos with them. Next to the photo gallery is the pathetic library; the actual library was removed during the 2012 refit to make room for more cabins. Now, a few shelves hold a piddling number of books, games to borrow, and daily trivia and Sudoku puzzles. Around the corner are the art auction desk and a mini-gallery and the Pets at Sea station (where, for a fee, you can stuff and accessorize a plush animal toy).
On Deck 4, adjacent to the R Bar, is the "Royal Caribbean Online" Internet lounge, which offers real-time access to the Web 24/7. The ship is now outfitted for Wi-Fi, bow to stern, but some spots onboard may get better reception than others. You can pay for Internet as you go for 65 cents a minute or purchase a package: $35 for 60 minutes, $55 for 100 minutes, $75 for 150 minutes, $100 for 250 minutes or $150 for 500 minutes. To use Wi-Fi on your own laptop, you must first sign up for an account at the Internet cafe.
Conference rooms are located near the dining room on Deck 4 with a medical facility on Deck 1. There are no self-serve laundry rooms on Rhapsody.
Rhapsody of the Seas Spa & Fitness
The main, open, central outdoor area on Deck 9 has a large pool surrounded by four shaded hot tubs. The pool is divided, with a shallower area on one end and a depth of five feet at the other. An outdoor movie screen shows scenes of Caribbean beaches and sea life on our Alaska cruise; movie screenings were scheduled for select evenings. Lounge chairs are your basic plastic and metal affairs. A couple of Ping-Pong tables are hidden away by the entrance to the Solarium.
Toward the stern is the Egyptian-themed Solarium (yes, there are pharaoh statues) with the secondary pool and another two hot tubs. This area is covered by a retractable glass dome, and it's a warm hideaway when the weather is chilly outside. It's also adults-only (minimum age 16). You'll find nicer lounge chairs, tables and chairs for playing cards or eating snacks from the adjacent Park Cafe.
On Deck 10, a jogging track circles the ship, overlooking the pool areas. At the very aft of the ship is Royal Caribbean's signature rock-climbing wall, and the requisite shuffleboard courts are on this deck, as well. There is no basketball court onboard.
The two-deck Vitality Day Spa and fitness center, run by Steiner's of London, occupies Decks 9 and 10, aft. The Egyptian-themed spa offers all the usual treatments (massages, facials, hair and nail services), as well as acupuncture, medi-spa procedures to reduce wrinkles and enhance lips, waxing and special offerings for couples, men, teens and kids. The Cruise Specials newsletter that accompanies the Cruise Compass usually lists same-day spa specials and other discounts.
Rhapsody has a perfectly adequate gym for a ship of its size, with eight treadmills, eight elliptical trainers, six exercise bikes, weight machines and free weights. Fitness classes -- yoga, spinning and boot camp (for $12), as well as free abs and stretching classes -- and spa seminars take place in the central aerobics area.
The promenade on Deck 5 would be ideal for sea-day walking if it weren't blocked off at one end. Still, people will stroll in a U, up and back.
Rhapsody of the Seas For Kids
Rhapsody has an extensive children's program called "Adventure Ocean," for kids from ages 3 to 17. (Kids must be toilet trained; they will not be allowed in if still wearing diapers or Pull-Ups.) The children are broken up into five age groups: Aquanauts (3 to 5), Explorers (6 to 8), Voyagers (9 to 11) and two groups of Teens (12 to 14 and 15 to 17). Eighteen-year-olds are not allowed into Adventure Ocean, with no exceptions. In addition, the Royal Babies and Tots program is geared toward the littlest cruisers, ages 6 to 36 months. The three youth lounges -- Nursery, Adventure Ocean and teen disco -- are located on Deck 10.
Adventure Ocean activities for kids ages 3 to 11 are free of charge and are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m. On port days, the center will open a half hour prior to the first excursion. Age-appropriate activities may include finger-painting, talent shows, pajama parties, karaoke, sports tournaments and scavenger hunts. Royal Caribbean also offers special kids' programs in science, art, theater and storytelling. Certain events are designated as family activities for parents and kids to do together.
Teen activity hours vary during the day and run from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. for younger teens and from 9 p.m. 'til late for older teens. Think dance and pool parties, video game play, casino nights and sports. The teen disco has a "mocktail" bar, dance floor and video game area. It's located off the all-ages arcade.
Royal Babies and Tots Programming is geared to little kids, ages 6 to 36 months, and take place in the Nursery. The Nursery's main playroom is outfitted with all sorts of Fisher-Price toys, soft climbing structures and interactive play stations lining the walls. A huge flat-screen TV shows Sesame Street, the Wiggles and Thomas the Tank Engine videos nearly nonstop. A back room has several cribs and a changing station. Typically, the Nursery is open from 8 a.m. on port days and 9:30 a.m. on sea days through midnight.
The babies program works differently than Adventure Ocean. Most of its open hours are reserved for drop-off group baby-sitting, day or night, at a rate of $8 per hour, per child. Staff will change diapers, but you're expected to provide supplies (diapers, milk, bottles, sippy cups, etc.). Parents will receive a pager to be buzzed if there's a problem.
During late afternoon open-play sessions, Fisher-Price Playgroups and Crayola Beginnings art time, kids can come for free, but they must be supervised by a parent. The room is a wonderful place for little ones to play, and we discovered that if no tots have been dropped off, the staff will allow parents and kids to come in for additional open play time. Families can also borrow bags of toys for the duration of the cruise -- a neat idea so you don't have to pack your toybox. We even asked and were allowed to borrow a toy for our son.
In-cabin sitting, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., is available through the purser's desk and must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. It's based on availability with no guarantee that a sitter will be found. Minimum age is 1 year; the charge is $19 per hour (for two hours or more) for up to three children within the same family.
Group baby-sitting for ages 3 to 11 is available from the youth staff from 10 p.m. through 2 a.m. nightly. The rate is $6 per hour, per child. (Kids must be at least 3 years old and potty-trained.)
Royal Caribbean provides Pack 'n Play porta-cribs on advance request, but standard cabins do not have curtains to divide the rooms or bathtubs. High chairs with trays are available in both the Windjammer and main dining room, as is whole milk. Royal Caribbean's Babies to Go program allows parents to preorder jarred Gerber baby food, Huggies diapers and Cotonelle wipes to be delivered to their cabins for exorbitant prices.
The main dining room does offer a kids' menu with appetizers, entrees, desserts and even virgin cocktails and frozen drinks (specialty drinks cost extra). The waitstaff was extremely accommodating of children, having a fruit salad ready for my son whenever we arrived in the dining room, making animals out of napkins and just dropping by to say hi.
Several family-friendly dining options are also available. Lunch & Play is offered on sea days from noon to 2 p.m. when Adventure Ocean is typically closed. Counselors will supervise a boxed lunch, movie- or cartoon-watching and playtime for a charge of $7.95 per kid. My Family Time Dining is a free service for families with early seating in the dining room. Kids will receive an expedited dinner service so they can be in and out in 45 minutes, when counselors will pick them up and bring them back to Adventure Ocean for evening activities while parents enjoy the rest of their dinner at leisure. And, Adventure Ocean Dining is a program on select nights to allow kids to have dinner in the ship's restaurants with their peers and youth program staff.
Royal Caribbean will not accept pregnant guests who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy before or during the cruise. Pregnant women in their first and second trimesters technically need a "fit to travel" note from their physicians.